Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Accentuate the positive

Danny Finkelstein has a nice comment piece for today's Times.

The essence of the article reflects on Gordon Brown's homily about social mobility:
The Prime Minister spoke for 40 minutes about social mobility, setting himself goals, declaring himself committed, reeling off statistics and announcing initiatives, but he never once addressed the fundamental questions - what causes children to behave as they do? What drives social mobility?
With typical style, Finkelstein glides into the "nature versus nurture" argument (using a riff from Judith Rich Harris) on a neat glissando:
I have always been fascinated by Henry Kissinger's accent. That sort of low Germanic rumble. I ponder it at the oddest of moments ...

It is not especially odd that a child who came to America at age 15, should retain the accent of his childhood. What is a little strange is that his younger brother, Walter, does not. Strange though this may seem, it isn't uncommon. The children of immigrants usually speak the language of their birthplace without an accent, even if their parents speak with a heavy accent.
Malcolm was disappointed that, either on the word-count or by uncultured sub-editorial deletion, we presumably lost one of the best (and, here, singularly relevant) Henry Kissinger stories.

President Richard Nixon was cosying up, in his blundering way, to the Israeli Prime Minister, Golda Meir. Golda, born in the Ukraine, brought up in Milwaukee, the original Iron Lady of the Israeli Labour movement, didn't do cosy.

Nixon passed the remark that he and she had one thing in common: they both had Jewish “Foreign Ministers”.

Kissinger (Nixon's Secretary of State, and thereby his "Foreign Minister") was hard of nose and harsh of speech. On the other hand Abba Eban (left), a Cambridge "triple-starred First", was donnish, urbane, literate and polished in speech and thought.

Golda's response: "Yes, but mine speaks English". Sphere: Related Content

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